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Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao opened a liquefied natural gas project in Guangdong Province on June 28th. This 29.1-billion-Yuan project is an important Chinese-Australian cooperation which brings Sino-Australian trade and economic ties to a new level.
Both governments say Sino-Australian relations are "at their best ever", and have developed fast and comprehensively.
In terms of politics, Chinese and Australian high-ranking officials maintain a close relationship. In recent years, Chinese leaders including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have visited Australia. Australian Prime Minister Howard has been to China six times since he took office. Their relations are friendly and harmonious. Neither country is regarded as a threat by the other so they concentrate on the positive side of their bilateral relations. Australia considers China an important friend and believes that China's development benefits not only itself but the whole world.
This agreement prolongs Australia’s refusal to recognize the sovereign rights of the people of Timor-Leste, a position which began when Australia encouraged Indonesia’s invasion in 1975, became blatant when Australia and Indonesia divided Timor-Leste’s petroleum resources in 1989, and continues in Australia’s occupation of now-independent Timor-Leste’s maritime territory. Although the government of Timor-Leste is temporarily acceding to this occupation, ETAN joins with many in Timor-Leste in the belief that the struggle for independence remains incomplete without definitive boundaries accepted by their neighbors. We are also troubled by the permanent nature of some of the provisions, especially those which prevent the use of courts or other impartial mechanisms for resolving disputes.
East Timor's government, dependent on foreign support after 24 years of Indonesian occupation and destruction, needs to be able to use its own resources. At present, East Timor is struggling not to go into debt to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), as it needs to cover a US$126 million financial gap between now and 2007. Yet between 1999 and today, the Australian government has stolen more than US$1 billion in oil and gas revenues that would belong to East Timor under a fair boundary settlement. East Timor is among the poorest of the world's countries, suffering from very low levels of basic services and high unemployment.
Australia is one of the world's richest countries with government spending of nearly $10,000 per person per annum. East Timor is one of the world's poorest countries with a government budget of about $100 per person per annum. When Senator Brown visited Dili in April, he saw that they desperately needed the Timor sea royalties over the next 30 years for schools, hospitals, roads and security. With close to 90% unemployment, East Timor faces huge social problems.